Ancient Greek Ceramic Vessels versus Adolescent Rage
Last Wednesday, a 21-year-old man named Brian Hernandez, broke into the Dallas Museum of Art at 10 pm at night by smashing a metal chair against a glass door. He then went on a rampage damaging objects in glass cases. He smashed three ancient Greek ceramic objects and one contemporary ceramic object by a Caddo artist named Chase Kahwinhut Earles. The director of the DMA, Agustin Arteaga, told the New York Times that the objects appeared not to be deliberately chosen. “There was no intention, from what we can see, of stealing anything, of damaging any work of art in a deliberate way. It was just someone who was going through a moment of anger and found this as a way to express it.”
This piece is a black-figure kylix, created approximately 2550 years ago. It has an image of a siren in the bowl. A kylix is a drinking vessel, used for drinking wine at symposia, all-male drinking parties that included musical entertainments, poetry recitals, and discussions. The most famous symposium in Greek history is the one described by Plato. But one assumes that symposia were generally less intellectual and more drunk than the one transcribed by Plato.
This is the red-figure pyxis and lid, which is estimated to be about a hundred years more recent that the kylix. A pyxis is a cylindrical box used by women to hold cosmetics.
The oldest object damaged by Hernandez was a black-figure panel amphora from the 6th century BCE. The images on either side are scenes from the Trojan war. Achilles has killed a Trojan warrior and is about to face Memnon, an Ethiopian price fighting on the side of the Trojans. Achilles will soon kill Memnon, but shortly afterwards be killed himself. Amphorae were used to store olive oil, primarily.
Arteaga theorizes that Hernandez was just on a destructive rampage and was not targeting specific art. Maybe so, but I wonder why he would destroy 2500-year-old ceramic objects. It is heartbreaking to imagine these vessels that were created by craftsmen in Greece so very long ago and managed to survive to the present, only to be destroyed in an spasm of adolescent rage. But considering how difficult it was to break in—he had to strike the door many times to get the glass to break—the location at least seems to have been deliberate. Whether or not he had some beef with the ancient Greeks is unclear, but since he also smashed the Batah Kuhuh Alligator Gar Fish Effigy Bottle by Chase Kahwinhut Earles, his animus doesn’t seem limited to the ancient Greeks.
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